So far, travel seems to be one of only a few fields Amazon hasn't entered and attempted to dominate, despite years-long fears by online travel agencies and others. But it may be making a move now, with travel at an all-time low.
Amazon Explore, launched last week in a handful of countries and coming soon to more, allows users to book virtual tours and experiences such as landmark tours, visits to art or history museums, cooking classes and more. Each runs as a one-to-one video interaction with a live guide on the scene. Video links allow users to see the guide and the site and to converse, but the video is intentionally one-way; the guide won't see your holiday pajamas.
The sample experiences look similar to the kind of live experiences Airbnb offers at various locations: $90 to tour a neighborhood in Kyoto, $45 for a cooking lesson with a chef in Bologna, $70 for a shopping trip in Quebec and $39 for an up-close visit with Costa Rica toucans. Viewers get to ask questions and direct activity.
Amazon says the activities are a "public beta," and can only be booked by invitation; invitations are obtained by logging into an Amazon account and navigating to Amazon Explore. The offerings come from local tour providers for whom it may be a pandemic lifeline; it also has the possibility of many other ways into travel for Amazon, potentially competing with OTAs like Expedia and tour bookers like Viator, or perhaps even with Google's own travel ambitions.